The British Library has announced a huge investment in their Northern presence including a new site in Leeds city centre and redevelopment plans for Boston Spa.
As the national library of the United Kingdom, The British Library is one of the most important cultural institutions in the world. It already has a presence in Leeds, with a base in Boston Spa, but now they’re planning further investment in the city by opening ‘The British Library of the North’ in Leeds city centre. It comes off the back of a £25 million commitment from the UK government.
Plans are already well underway to make this dream a reality. They’re working with Leeds City Council to identify and establish a major new public space in the heart of the city. The preferred site is the Grade-I listed Temple Works site in Holbeck and they’re in discussions with property developer CEG to see how they could make it work.
CEG took over the building in 2017 after Burberry’s plans fell through. In its heyday, it was a thriving hub of industry, a Victorian flax mill owned by the influential industrialist John Marshall. Even when the original factories closed, it remained in use as the Northern headquarters for Kay’s from 1953 to 1981. More recently, it was used as a cultural hub and events space. But it’s been out of use for far too long, so this could be a marriage made in heaven.
“This is wonderful news for what is an extremely valuable national asset for Leeds and the North,” Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, explained. “We’re proud to host the British Library at Boston Spa and this will really consolidate its future and underpin its creative and learning ambitions and our expanding cultural and digital collaborations. We hope this will be further unleashed by the exciting potential of the possible development at Temple Works, which is very much in its initial stages but could be an incredibly exciting focus for this wonderful, historically-significant national cultural asset’s future.”
The new Leeds site isn’t the only thing to get excited about. They’ve also been given £95 million to transform their services across the North and that includes a long overdue redevelopment of their Boston Spa branch to make it fit for the 21st-century. This little-known cultural asset is home to two thirds of the Library’s collection of 170 million items. The investment will allow them to improve their digital infrastructure and leave buildings no longer fit for purpose, while refurbishing and redeveloping others.
This is all part of their wider Living Knowledge programme, which will see £13 million invested in a substantial expansion of the British Library’s National Network of Business & IP Centres. This will allow them to provide even more localised support to entrepreneurs and small business owners across the country. Over the past three years, the programme has helped to create over 12,000 businesses and 8,000 new jobs, generating £6.95 for the economy for every £1 of public money spent.
“The British Library has been a major employer in the north of England since the early 1960s and we warmly welcome the much-needed investment in our Boston Spa site announced by the Government,” Roly Keating, Chief Executive of The British Library, explained. “Not only does this allow us to future-proof the vital storage and access infrastructure for one of the world’s greatest cultural and intellectual archives, it also enables us to transform our public offer in the north.”
This massive investment from The British Library shows their unwavering commitment to Leeds and the North, which is only going to have a huge impact across the whole region in years to come.Cover image credit: Kippa Matthews